The plan was rather simple: we had bought an expensive ticket from our guesthouse on Don Khon to be taken from there to Phnom Penh in one day. That involved taking a boat, a minibus to the border, another minibus from the border to the next town and finally a bus to Phnom Penh, a 14 hour journey.
Everything went fine in the beginning: at first a nice 20 minute boat ride, then an unspectacular short trip to the border. There, our passports were stamped in no time, which involved paying a total of 7.5 dollars “processing fee” to the immigration officers on both sides. Finally we jumped on a minibus waiting on the Cambodian side to Stung Treng, the first major town in Cambodia. The trip described so far can only be done by pre-arranged transport, because there is not public transport: the border is far away from any village / town on either side.
Perfect? How wrong… In Stung Treng, the minibus driver simply told us that we were the only two passengers going to Phnom Penh, so it was too expensive to drive so far just for the two of us. We would have to wait for the public bus leaving the next morning, since there were no more buses that day.
After a long and heated argument, we had no choice but to accept his offer to arrange a transport to Kratie and pay for the public bus to Phnom Penh the next morning. Of course, three Vietnamese seasonal laborers were squashed into the banged up taxi with us, so we traveled like sardines for two more hours.
Even though we had not planned to stop in Kratie, it turned out to be a nice evening watching the spectacular sunset over the Mekong from the Red Sun Falling Bar. Who would assume that a decent Bloody Mary and an acceptable Sauvignon Blanc could be found in such a godforsaken town?
Early next morning, we hopped on the bus for the remaining 350 kilometers to Phnom Penh, a 6 hour ride on a very uncomfortable bus. The only excitement was a lunch stop where ladies offered delicacies like grilled crickets and … huge, black spiders! We were not hungry so we decided to skip this great opportunity to taste something new… The other new experience was that vendors in Cambodia are rather pushy and seem to have heard every excuse from tourists and thus have the proper answer ready.